News / Europe

Pilot Flies at Night in a Solar-Powered Plane

A pioneering pilot is flying at night, after flying all through the day.  The catch?  He is in the cockpit of a solar-powered plane, with the aim of flying through the night until the sun rises Thursday. So far, pilot Andre Borschberg awaits dawn aboard the Solar Impulse HB-SIA aircraft.

Propellers whirred on the slim airplane's long wings as Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg set out to make history by flying a solar-powered airplane through day and night, without fuel.

Speaking through a headset from the cockpit after takeoff Wednesday morning in Payerne, Switzerland, Borschberg could barely contain a smile.

"It was very special, you know.  That's the moment, I think, that everybody has been waiting for since now almost seven years and thinking about it -- I don't want to say every day -- but almost.  That's a very, very important milestone for the project.  I guess everybody was excited, but I was very excited, too," he said.

The Solar Impulse HB-SIA is a single-seater, solar-powered plane.  Its wings are as long as those of an Airbus A340 -- a whopping 63 meters -- and the top side of those wings are covered with a skin of solar cells.  During daylight hours Wednesday, the plane took in the sun's rays though 12,000 solar panels and charged the plane's 400 kilograms of batteries.  

The goal is for plane to keep its motors running through the night using the energy stored inside those batteries.

Borschberg said he was thrilled to be in the cockpit of a plane that was producing more energy than it was consuming.  And he is not simply the pilot for this solar-powered mission.  He is also Solar Impulse's chief executive officer.

The mission has not been without its setbacks.  The Solar Impulse team had planned for a night flight last week, but they had to postpone that takeoff when a critical piece of equipment malfunctioned.  At that time, the founders of the project, Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, expressed their disappointment as well as their hope.

"You have to understand that the airplane is completely experimental.  It is the type of airplane that has never flown in the past, so we need to assist the pilot from the ground, but we also need to assist the airplane itself," said Solar Impulse Chairman Piccard.

He explained that high-tech equipment transmits data from the plane to a team on the ground. That equipment, like everything on the 1,600 kilogram aircraft, is lightweight.  And, he added, the equipment records, in his words, "absolutely everything."  "The team will know about vibrations in the wings, about the position of the flight controls, about the efficiency of the solar cells, all the energy that gets in, all the energy that gets out," he said.

Piccard initiated the project in 1999, setting his sights on such solar-powered flight after he circumnavigated the world in a balloon.  He said the Solar Impulse illustrates the potential of clean technologies and renewable energy.   

The Solar Impulse team says Borschberg and the carbon fiber plane spent all day Wednesday slowly ascending to an altitude of 8,700 meters -- 200 meters higher than planned.  Roughly two hours before sunset Wednesday evening, the sun's rays were no longer strong enough to supply the solar cells with energy.  As planned, the plane began a slow descent, with the goal of maintaining an altitude of 1,500 meters until sunrise.  

In its test flights, the plane managed to stay aloft for 14 hours.  It has already surpassed that record with this flight.  

And, if the mission is successful, the Solar Impulse HB-SIA will be the first plane to ever harness the power of the sun to fly through the night.

You May Like

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

Physically and culturally close to Western Europe, Lviv feels solidarity with compatriots in country’s east but says they need to decide own future More

West African Women Disproportionately Affected by Ebola

Women's roles in families and the community put them at greater risk for contracting the disease, officials say More

Video NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Arrives at Mars

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft will measure rates at which gases escape Martian atmosphere into space More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid